Music retail…will you miss it?

By Susan Whitall – From her Blog at

Everybody has a different memory, when it comes to buying music at a bricks and mortar store, and the closing of the Virgin mega store in New York, one of two Virgin mega stores left in the U.S. (the other, in Hollywood, is also about to close) has led to many folks exchanging their favorite retail memories like Scott did here on

I can’t say any one chain had a hold on my heart; I remember pining for and finally convincing my mother to buy Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips Part II,” the Motown single, at for me at the Kresge’s 5 & 10 in downtown Birmingham as a nipper. (The pic at left is a shot of the Downtown Kresge’s in the 60s – Curator) I wouldn’t have known what a record store was, back then.

More often than not, I bought 45s and 33s at such places; I remember forking over $3 or so for Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” at Perry Drugs, to the elderly male cashier’s disdain. (“What are you going to torture your parents with now?” he said).

I do remember standing in line at Discount Records for a Beatles album, probably “Abbey Road.”

At Michigan State I once traded in a few textbooks for a copy of the Beatles’ White Album, an unexplained gap in my Beatles collection. It was a lucky break for me that the Student Bookstore carried records…

My favorite record store for years was the late, lamented Sam’s Jams in Ferndale, because it carried the more unusual stuff. I remember finding “Gino is a Coward” and some other vintage R&B, racked as oldies, at Sam’s. Never would you find anything that different at the chain stores. Today my only music retail stop is Street Corner Records at 13 and Southfield. (I hear they’re moving to Greenfield Plaza in Oak Park, but at least they’re still alive.) What’s your music retail favorite, or memory?

(June 20, 2009)

I forgot to mention E.J. Korvettes, a defunct discount emporium here in Michigan, as another place where I would top up my album collection. As a staffer at Creem Magazine in the ’70s I usually didn’t need to buy much, but I remember getting a slew of Jeff Beck albums there for about $3.00 each.

This was before the advent of $18 CDs pretty much destroyed the business model.

Most intriguingly, blogger (and fan) Chris Morton of Floydian Slips,who also grew up near Birmingham, Mich., jump-started my memory bank when he mentioned a tiny drugstore on the northeast corner of Maple & Woodward Ave. in Birmingham. On the southeast corner sat Cunningham’s Drugstore, where I don’t recall buying any records, just music and fashion magazines.

Eureka! In the basement of this place on the NE corner (which I believe was called AAA Discount Drugs, although Chris isn’t so sure), in a dank little basement was a wonderland packed with 100s of 45s and 33s. As kids we would go down a narrow stairway and paw through the latest hits under garish lighting.

If anyone can help us with the name of this place that started so many on the road to music retail ruin, please do tell.

Susan Whitall writes about music, books, pop culture, radio and more for The Detroit News. You can reach her at

Jun 17th, 2009 | Posted in Keener
  1. Doug Shirk
    Jul 27th, 2009 at 17:54 | #1

    Federals Department Store…or at least the one on 9 Mile and Woodward…had the greatest cut out bin in the world. I picked up most of Roulette’s “Golden Oldies” series (13 volumes worth) for a buck a shot, not to mention some other rare stuff I still have and play 40+ years later.

    Outside of that, any place that had a record department was a potential goldmine. I picked up a Flanders & Swann lp in a hole in the wall record store in Wenatchee, WA once. I asked the owner why he stocked it. His answer was “because I liked it”. Can’t think of a better reason…..

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